The Independent reports that sales of organic food have fallen by 30% in the past year – faster than predicted. TNS Worldpanel monitored the shopping habits of 25,000 households in the UK from February 2008 to February 2009. Both Tesco and the Co-op admitted that sales of some organic foods have slumped over the last year.
According to organic gardener and BBC Radio 4’s Gardener’s Question Time Bob Flowerdew, shoppers haven’t necessarily been turning their backs on organic food, but just choosing to shop more locally. The internet, mail order and box schemes were all highlighted by Flowerdew as being more satisfying alternatives both in terms of price and choice. The limited organic meat cuts that supermarkets offer mean that it can be far more economical to visit your local butcher or farmer’s market.
The other day I visited Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market and bought some organic rare breed bacon from Muck & Magic Farming Ltd. It cost around £3 for a pack, which rivals supermarket prices and I had the added satisfaction of knowing it came from happy, organically reared pigs. I don’t always think that organic status means food can be enjoyed conscience-free – sometimes non-organic methods of farming are just as ethically sound. We went through a debate at home about whether or not to “go organic”, but in the end my parents decided it would be a bit like “throwing the baby out with the bath water” (my dad’s phrase). There were certain types of medication that my dad did not want to have to avoid and at the end of the day the animals on our farm lead no less happy a life for not being organic.
Certainly though it’s an interesting question. Is organic food always worth the mark up? And how can we as consumers know when it really is?